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More Hurricanes Expected, Despite Oncoming El Niño

Courtesy of NOAA

Hurricane Ernesto is now fading away into interior Mexico after making landfall late yesterday on the Yucatan Peninsula. But what about our chances to see a big storm? Those odds are going up - at least for now.

The word from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is we could see as many as 17 named storms before hurricane season ends in November. That's up from their initial prediction of nine storms.

"Twelve to 17 named storms, of which five to eight are expected to become hurricanes," says chief NOAA forecaster Gerry Bell, "and two to three of those are expected to become major hurricanes."

But there is a caveat: Bell says conditions are ripe for the El Nino phenomenon developing in late August or early September.

"El Nino's a competing factor, because it strengthens the vertical wind shear over the Atlantic," he says, "which in turn suppresses storm development."

Bell says the increase is largely due to warm temperatures in the Atlantic lasting longer than expected, which helps breed hurricanes.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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